Juvenile delinquency can include everything from an eighth grader skipping school to a child shoplifting from a neighborhood retailer, to a 17-year-old committing murder. Whenever children under the age of 18 (minors) are accused of committing crimes, they are dealt with (at least initially) by the juvenile justice system in the state in which they live.
The law treats crimes committed by children very differently than adults. Criminal acts by juveniles—people under the age of 18—are dealt with through the juvenile justice system instead of the criminal justice system.
In most states, when children are accused of criminal acts, the case most often is addressed in a juvenile court and not in the regular adult criminal court system. All states, however, have provisions that allow or require the courts to treat juveniles in certain cases as adults.
When children, particularly teenagers, congregate in large groups, it tends to make adults nervous. It's also the cause of many curfew laws and ordinances that restrict juveniles from being in public places at certain hours. Curfew laws are very common, especially in cities, though some states have adopted statewide curfew laws as well. Not all cities or states have curfew laws or ordinances, and restrictions can differ significantly.
A juvenile can be charged with simple assault for injuring another person, threatening to or attempting to injure another person or even making another person afraid. In this day and age, fights, threats, and roughhousing that were once considered a part of growing up can lead to serious criminal charges.
All states limit the right to purchase, own, or possess weapons to some extent, though restrictions differ widely. States commonly make it a crime to possess specific types of weapons, to possess weapons in specified locations, or to use weapons in a prohibited manner. When juveniles illegally possesses weapons, they can be charged just like an adult would.
Here are common questions about legal problems for the child who runs away, the child’s parents, and any other adult who might become involved with the child by, for example, allowing the child to stay in their home.
Though specific teen sexting laws are not present in a majority of states, the trend appears to be towards more widespread adoption of sexting laws. In the meantime, in those states without sexting laws, sexting may still be punished under pre-existing laws that target child pornography.
Children have different rights and obligations under the law than adults. The law recognizes that children, or juveniles, are still developing, and until they reach adult age they must comply with laws that are slightly different than those which apply to adults.
False identification documents, or fake IDs, have probably been around as long as the real thing. Having the proper identification allows you any number of privileges, from obtaining alcohol, to cashing a check and renting an apartment.
All states criminalize theft and burglary, and a juvenile who commits these offenses can face juvenile charges. Once a court determines a child is delinquent, it can then impose punishments similar to those that an adult might face if convicted of a crime.
The crime of vandalism, sometimes called malicious mischief, criminal mischief, or property damage, occurs whenever someone intentionally damages property that belongs to someone else. Juvenile vandalism is any vandalism performed by a person under the age of 18.
The juvenile court system has its own courts, judges, prosecutors, and rules. However, the crime of shoplifting is the same for juveniles as it is for adults. The only difference is how a juvenile court handles the case.
The crime of driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) can have serious penalties for young drivers, including suspension of their driver’s licenses. For more information on minors driving under the influence of alcohol, see Underage DUI.
From Brian Wilson’s “Little Deuce Coupe” to the Boss’s “Pink Cadillac,” teenagers and automobiles have always gone together like Prince and platform shoes. Once those teenagers grow up and become parents, they find that the iconic American pairing of kids and cars can lead to a lot of heartache, including lawsuits.
Children who are witnesses to or victims of crimes may be ordered to testify in criminal cases. Generally, judges decide on a case-by-case basis whether a child is competent (qualified) to testify. But, even if a child is subpoenaed (ordered) to testify and found competent, there are steps the court